We ran this liveblog from March to May 2020 to help youth leaders respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. All the content shared can still be accessed and searched for via the sidebar.
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Many of us are searching for meaning in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, but is now the right time to try and "theologise"? Youthscape's Head of Theology Dr Phoebe Hill gives her thoughts in this blog post.
"There seems to be a very great difference between theology birthed from a crisis context, and theology actually carried out while the theologian herself is in the midst of crisis."
Feeling overwhelmed with video calls? "Zoomed out"? Will Van Der Hart from the Mind and Soul Foundation has published a really helpful blog post about this topic, titled "Telephone Empathy" - find it here. This was also the blog post mentioned in this week's podcast episode.
Here's a quote from the post: "The fact is that something about the medium of interactive screen calls interrupts the flow of empathy between us: People who are usually sensitive and intuitive suddenly seem abrasive and blunt. All of the subtleties of tone and pitch seem to have been edited out of our communications."
It includes some helpful tips about how to counteract this exhaustion with video calls - useful for youth leaders and perhaps also useful for any young people who are struggling with it. Mind and Soul Foundation blog is also just a great place to find help and support for your mental health. Check out their articles offering support during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Girls Brigade Ministries hosts an online blog for teenage girls, called "KoKo" (Keep on Keeping on). They've just released a new spoken word poem on their YouTube channel, titled: "A new normal". It's aimed at teenage girls and could work for parents/youth workers to use as a discussion starter.
Things have been a little quieter this week with the bank holidays on Friday and Monday and people taking time off to celebrate Easter. That being said there’s still been some great content on the liveblog and, like last week, we want to bring you the highlights of posts you might have missed:
- It’s been great to see whole organisations embrace life online and so encouraging to see both Princeton Theological Seminary and The National Youth Agency bring events and training on to a digital platform. On Wednesday 29th April, Princeton Theological Seminary's Institute for Youth Ministry is running a Digital Forum on Youth Ministry titled "Revisioning Youth Ministry: Failure, Grief, and Hope". This is set to be an informative and engaging event designed to bring support and encouragement to youth leaders on a personal level, as well as in a professional capacity, as they seek to minister to young people during this challenging time. Before then, The National Youth Agency is holding a free webinar over Zoom about how to do detached youth work during Covid-19. The event takes place this Friday, 17th April, from 2-3pm.
- Unfortunately, several Christian conferences have had to cancel this year due to the current circumstances. However, Spring Harvest Festival have put together a completely free, online Christian conference, available for anyone via their Youtube channel. There are talks, devotionals and worship all around the theme of “Unleashed – The Acts Church Today" and it’s definitely worth checking out.
- Dr Lucie Shuker, Director of the Youthscape Centre for Research, released a very interesting Monday Report which examined youth leaders’ responses to questions about flouting, furlough and finding new connections. The research team are doing weekly 3x3 questions (3 minutes, 3 questions, every week at 3 o'clock) and your input in those surveys is greatly appreciated. We've changed the day to Thursday, to give you a bit more time! Find out more about this research in this week's podcast.
- We've released the latest in our "Together Apart: youth work online" series. We've been creating free, easy to use session plans for your youth work. Find the latest one here.
Again, we want to thank you so much for your support and if there’s something you’d love to see or even something you want to contribute in coming weeks please get in touch!
‘Together Apart’ is a short series of sessions enabling you to explore life and faith with young people, designed specifically for the context of online youth work. And it's completely free! The first two sessions can be downloaded here, the third session can be found here and the fourth session here. You can catch a new session of Together Apart every Wednesday here on the liveblog.
Each session includes a short programme around a theme, along with copious notes on everything that a youth leader might need to consider when running the session online. We’re not claiming that this is a revolutionary new youth work model – but we hope that it will prove really useful in the immediate context in which we find ourselves. As always, we welcome your feedback!
Session Five, written by Youthscape's Hannah Bradley, explores the theme of God's plan (download it via the adjacent link). Do you believe things happen for a reason?
Youth leaders! Do you know any young people who are passionate about issues around social justice and making a difference? Tearfund has created a new online course to help train young influencers.
On their website, it says: "Emerging Influencers is a six-week leadership programme for 17-23-year-olds that connects you with like-minded game changers, helps you develop a theological understanding of justice and equips you to positively impact people living in poverty facing the coronavirus pandemic."
Young people can apply here - it will start on Monday 4th May and will include webinars, mentoring, opportunities for fundraising, and being part of an online community. If you know anyone who'd be interested, why not encourage them to apply?
We’re creating a special series of the Youthscape podcast, which will continue to appear at semi-regular intervals during the current global crisis.
The latest edition has just gone live; this week, Martin's on holiday so Rachel is, in her own words, "unleashed!" Joining her this week via Zoom is Director of Youthscape's Centre for Research, Dr Lucie Shuker. They discuss some of the findings from the 3x3 surveys so far. Keep an eye out for the next one!
As a youth leader, investing in young people is at the heart of what you do. You want to see young people thrive in all areas of their lives. In this time of online youth work, it’s difficult to know how best to come alongside your youth group and continue to offer them holistic support.
With some young people becoming increasingly frustrated with life in lockdown, one practical way you can encourage them is by inspiring them to explore new activities, hobbies and skills during the isolation period. Young people have more time than ever to try new things and pursue new skills. Many organisations, both educational and recreational, have responded to the current lockdown by putting material online which is readily available for anyone to access. This is the perfect time for young people to experiment with something they’ve never done before – they just need to know what’s out there!
Here’s a list of things you can inspire your young people to try:
- Cooking classes – several chain restaurants have recipes and cooking tutorials available via their social media accounts or youtube channels. These include Wagamama’s ‘wok from home’ and Zizzi’s #zizzirecipes.
- Khan Academy – this free online programme might sound a bit too much like your usual school work but there’s a far greater variety of courses available online than in your normal classroom. There’s everything from a course on Storytelling, which has you create your own theme park, to World History, highlighting key moments in various cultures throughout time.
- Learn how to code – Hour of Code offers free beginner tutorials on how to code. Everything from Google logos to apps to Minecraft landscapes.
- Photography classes – during the month of April, photography giant Nikon, is offering courses for free!
- Learn a language – there are several apps available to download that will help you get started with learning a new language. Apps such as ‘Memrise’ and ‘Duolingo’ are free, easy to use and fun to explore.
Why not direct your young people to some of these courses/activities and help them make the most of the time they have during quarantine? At the end of a youth group session, you could challenge your young people to try out at least one new activity before you meet again. For something like the cooking classes, why not encourage them to make something and send in a picture? Before recommending young people to certain websites, please make sure you follow your usual safeguarding procedures regarding consents and pre-evaluating content.
Last week we asked you some questions for the Friday 3x3 – a way to take the temperature of the youth ministry community during the Coronavirus pandemic. Every Friday at 3pm we’ll ask three questions which will take you no more than three minutes to answer.
It was quieter this week. Last week, lots of those who engaged with our survey told us they were expecting to carry on at the same pace over Easter. But we only had 35 of you glorious people respond to our Thursday survey (a day early!) so maybe we were winding down after all! So, a quick reminder, with only 35 responses this is not representative of what the wider Christian youth work tribe thinks or feels. You can read the full-length breakdown and reflection here but a brief summary is below:
1. FLOUTING: ARE THEY OR AREN'T THEY?
Ministers and public health officials have been under fire for ‘flouting’ (great word) government guidelines, and to some extent so have teenagers. Obviously youth workers won’t really know what young people are doing 24-7, but the majority of those who responded felt that young people were compliant. In contrast, an article in the Telegraph reported that government polling showed teenagers to be a "problem" group when it comes to compliance. If that’s right and teenagers are more likely to gather socially, what is the responsibility of youth workers? On the one hand, we need to help young people #stayathome but we may also need to advocate for them, especially where they may lack safe spaces. Here is a great blog post on that topic.
2. FURLOUGH: VOLUNTEERS HELPING TO SUSTAIN YOUTH MINISTRY
Recent government policy has made it possible for organisations in financial difficulty to ‘furlough’ staff so we asked: "Has youthwork in your context been affected by staff being furloughed?"
26/34 said ‘No’. Five of these added that this was because their youth work team is all volunteers. One person reflected that their volunteers have more time because they been furloughed from their paid work, while another explained that their volunteers are teachers and NHS workers so are still working and volunteering!
Eight people said they or their context had been affected by furlough. In one context the community/schools work team had been furloughed, while church youth work had moved online and been relatively unaffected. Some people told us they had lost between 1/3 to 1/2 of their team with the result that some key relationships were disrupted, and young people either couldn’t see a youth worker or had to meet someone new. In a church context, one person told us that youth and children’s work had merged in response to staff furloughing, while two described blurred boundaries around ‘volunteering’.
“It's so hard in the church - vague boundaries on work/volunteering - the staff have been asked to volunteer for different things, but I think that's unethical and makes the atmosphere - which is already stilted over zoom - more tense!”
3. A MINORITY CONNECTING WITH NEW YOUNG PEOPLE, PARENTS AND PROFESSIONALS
We asked who you had been engaging with since the lockdown, to get a sense of how many of us have experienced our networks expanding or new opportunities for connection presenting themselves. It’s reassuring to find that all respondents told us they are in contact with young people they were already in contact with before and 97% are in contact with parents they were engaged with before. What is more interesting is that these youth workers report being more likely to engage with new parents (57% said ‘yes’ or ‘somewhat’) than new young people (34% said ‘yes or ‘somewhat’). Why is that?
Thanks to those who took part! If you missed it why not join us next time – see you Friday at 3pm?
Spring Harvest Festival was due to take place this week, but due to the lockdown, they have had to cancel. But they have pulled together to create Spring Harvest Home - a completely free, online Christian conference, available for anyone. On their YouTube channel, you'll find talks, worship and devotionals for all age groups. The theme this year is “Unleashed – The Acts Church Today". There's lots of material for your youth group to enjoy together. Check it out!
Unite714 is a prayer initiative across churches, denominations and countries to pray at 7:14 twice a day, morning and evening, for an end to the Covid-19 pandemic and for God's healing power. You can find more info and the prayers to download each week here. Why not encourage the young people you work with to join in? The inspiration is 2 Chronicles 7:14:
"If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chron 7:14)
The National Youth Agency is holding a free webinar over Zoom about how to do detached youth work during Covid-19. They've invited Graeme Tiffany and Emily Collinsbeare from the Federation for Detached Youth Work to speak. It's happening on Friday 17th April from 2-3pm and you can find all the details here.
YourNeighbour.org is bringing together churches and groups to help their local communities. They are also calling as many people as possible to sign an Easter pledge. This is from their website:
"With Easter this weekend, we want to get the message far and wide that the Church is here for the nation. This Easter we are asking 1000 UK Church leaders to publicly commit to supporting their local communities, to bring a message of hope, so that no-one will be alone, without the help they need, during the COVID-19 crisis."
You can get involved on their website. Happy Easter to you all!
Parents! Youth workers! Are you struggling to engage young people in creative prayer at the moment?
Prayer Spaces in Schools have come up with a set of downloadable PDFs with ideas for creating prayer spaces for young people at home. Check them out here.
We're throwing it back to a few years ago with this little video from Schoolswork UK - "Easter: inside the egg". This is a fun, simple video to get young people talking about what Easter means to them.
’It’s no accident the Gospels tell us that, as Jesus was dying, it grew dark in the middle of the day. Few images are more telling. As Jesus hung upon the cross, seemingly, light gave way to darkness, love to hatred, and life to death. How can that be good?’(Ron Rolheiser)
Tonight we’re praying for hope to be planted and nurtured in our churches and communities.
On today’s Youthscape podcast, Andy Winmill from Urban Devotion Birmingham shared how as a team they've had to re-imagine themselves so that they can still stand alongside young people. His stories from the frontline of supporting vulnerable young people at this time are full of sorrow, as well as deep love. Tonight’s compline is taken from his words, which you can hear in full on the podcast.
‘As the Good Friday story unfolds doubt creeps into the minds of believers. They had seen Jesus feed a crowd from crumbs and silence a storm with the authority of His words. Their mindset had shifted to “You’ve got this”. This certainty faded into darkness.
Perhaps doubt crept into the mind of Jesus. “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?”
I wonder whether doubt has crept into your mind these past few weeks and this doubt has turned into fear? Have there have been times over the past few weeks where you haven’t known what to do? When the burden of responsibility has weighed heavily. When others have looked to you for direction and you’ve not been sure which way is up. Doubt quickly turns to fear.
Fear has it’s critics but it’s a helpful emotion. Fear saves lives. Adrenalin rushes through our bodies, causing us to steer away from danger. But what happens if we don’t see the danger to steer away from, we can’t formulate a plan of action. So often our brains go into overdrive and we end up either numbed or hyperactive. We end up buying excessive amounts of toilet paper. We burst into tears at the most delicate trigger.
The apostle John says that perfect love casts out fear. It doesn’t suppress fear, it doesn’t silence fear, it doesn’t ignore fear. It casts it out. Fear at it’s worst causes us to pull away. Love calls us to draw in.
‘Good’ Friday; it’s a strange title. It’s the biggest spoiler of all time but only those of us who know the ending can see through the bad to the good. In the moment it can feel as though we are in a horror movie when we know this is the most incredible love story.
Now in 2020, in the great lockdown, the detail is still being worked out. It’s important that we name our fear. We don’t suppress it. We don’t silence it. We don’t ignore it. And then we invite Love to cast it out.’
You know where my fears might be causing me to doubt your love or pull away from your presence. Thank you that even before I name my fears, you know them and you invite me to allow your Love to cast them out. Help me not to let fear pull me away from the young people you’re calling me to stand alongside, however that looks. Even with all the changes and limitations, I’m facing, help me to figure out a way to show love to the young people and the communities around me. Thank you that as I look to the cross, I see a God who doesn’t stand aloof from pain and suffering, but steps into the mess, the hopelessness, the contagion and the despair, to be the Light of the world. May your Spirit fall this Easter, and may your church rise to be beacons of light and sharers of your love.
Princeton Theological Seminary's Institute for Youth Ministry are running a Digital Forum on Youth Ministry on Weds 29th April. The title of the event is: "Revisioning Youth Ministry: Failure, Grief, and Hope".
The leaders include Kenda Creasy Dean and Eric Barreto. Small group leaders include Aqueelah Ligonde, Marcus Hong, Kermit Moss, Erin Raffety, Shari Oosting, Erik Leafblad, and more.
Girls’ Brigade Ministries is releasing weekly activity sheets suitable for any children and young people, not just Girls’ Brigade community group members, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resources are part of a free resource zone open to all on the charity’s new website, which only launched last month.
GB Ministries (GBM) Director Jules Murdy says "We're in a strange new world right now but GB still wants to provide hope and fun for all children and young people. So, we’re really pleased to be able to offer these GB@home resources to enable children and young people to have access to positive, hope-filled, materials during the time they’re restricted to home due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We hope both GB leaders and parents find the resources easy to use and share."
The activity sheets are aimed at 4 age groups – 4 to 8s, 7 to 11s, 10 to 14s, and 13 to 18s – and include activities such as games, craft, Bible studies, and discussion points. There is also a free certificate template to download and print to celebrate children and young people’s achievements as they use the resources.
The new GBM website aims to showcase all of GBM’s projects; from the popular Koko blog to the 450 community groups.
The site also contains a tool mapping where all the GB community groups are, and the resource zone also shares programme materials that any youth workers and churches could use on topics such as loss, friendship, and kindness.
We’re creating a special series of the Youthscape podcast, which will continue to appear at semi-regular intervals during the current global crisis.
Today, on Good Friday, we wanted to do something a bit different. We asked Andy Winmill from Urban Devotion to lead us in a Good Friday-themed reflection. Martin and Rachel also talk about ways that the church can respond to the needs in their local communities while keeping to social distancing.
Another two major youth events which had been planned for this Summer have been cancelled. Organisers of Elim’s Limitless, and Vineyard churches’ Dreaming the Impossible events - which were due to share a site at the Staffordshire showground - both announced their cancellation this week. The news means that virtually every major Christian event planned for spring or summer 2020 has now been called off.
Limitless Director Tim Alford released a video statement on Wednesday, explaining that due to the situation surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak, the event would be postponed until 6-10 August 2021. Meanwhile Dreaming the Impossible’s Susie Aldridge and Zeke Rink recorded a similar statement to say that their event would similarly move to the same venue, from 31st July-4th August 2021. Ticket-holders to both events can have their 2020 bookings automatically transferred to next Summer.
The announcements follow similar cancellations from Big Church Day Out, Spring Harvest, New Wine, HTB Focus and more. The current social distancing regulations, which are expected to stay in force for some time to come, have effectively rendered such gatherings impossible.